What is SharePoint? What can it do for me? What do I need to know about it? Why should I use it?
Do these questions sound familiar? Have you found yourself wondering what SharePoint is and what it can do for your organization? You’re not alone! At ProServeIT, our prospects and customers are asking these same questions. So, in today’s blog, we’re going back to basics. In this exploratory blog, we’ll discuss what SharePoint is, what you need to know about it, the benefits of using it, and how you can get started. Want more information about SharePoint? Contact our SharePoint experts today!
What is SharePoint?
SharePoint is a highly customizable Cloud-based content collaboration and management platform that can help your team work remotely, work together, and work smarter. Used by over 200,000 companies globally, SharePoint is a content management platform that encourages collaboration among teams, regardless of where they are in the world.
In plain English, SharePoint allows you to manage all of your corporate content (from RFIs to marketing materials to financials and more), create websites and company intranets to keep your users informed on what’s happening, create business processes to automate some of your more mundane tasks (like workflows), and build customized apps that can help your teams become more productive.
Why Should You Use SharePoint?
Before we can talk about the benefits of SharePoint, we need to establish why you should be using it. Consider the following questions:
- Do your employees work remotely?
- Do your employees often move from one client location or meeting to another?
- Do your employees need access to various devices so they can do their jobs?
- How are your employees currently accessing the content that they need?
- Do you have customer-facing requirements, like a place to share information, an online catalogue, an online Request for Information form, or an online Request for Quote form that your customers need to fill out?
- Do you share documents with your customers often?
- Are you using USBs to transport and work on presentations, requests for information, or marketing collateral?
- Does your staff ever complain that they wish there was an easier way to access your content?
The great news is, SharePoint has been designed to address all these questions, and many of the benefits we’ll talk about below speak to the most common pain points that we’ve heard from our customers – the requirement for more remote/on-the-go access, moving away from using USBs (which can easily get lost or corrupted), helping your employees become more productive, sharing information and documents with customers, and the need for a customer facing solution.
SharePoint has several great features built into it, including real-time co-authoring capabilities, high-powered tagging features to make searching for content easier, anywhere-anytime access (all you need is an Internet connection) for any device you use, and powerful integration with your current Office 365 environment, which enables you to be more productive in your day.
What Are the Benefits of SharePoint?
As we touched upon above, SharePoint has many benefits built-in. Below, we’ve outlined just three of the key benefits that we’ve found our customers to be most interested in. Want to know about other benefits of using SharePoint in your organization? Our experts are always happy to chat!
1. SharePoint is Secure
Microsoft takes security very seriously. Their Cloud computing operations detect 1.5 million attempts every day to compromise their systems, so they have invested an annual security budget of $1 billion USD.
This emphasis on security pervades every aspect of Microsoft’s business, which includes their SharePoint stack. SharePoint comes with several built-in security features, like the ability to limit who outside your organization can see your content, set permissions on who in your organization has access to certain things, create policies to allow or block certain user behaviour, and allow or block your team’s access to content based on their locations.
2. SharePoint Helps Organizations Be More Collaborative
SharePoint has been designed to enhance the collaboration experience, especially when it’s paired with other Office 365 apps and services. When deployed as part of Office 365, SharePoint creates a virtual workspace that allows teams to meet, complete tasks, and collaborate with one another.
How, specifically? Here are a few ways that SharePoint can help organizations be more collaborative:
- With SharePoint, your documents reside in one shared place that can be accessed from any device, at anytime (all you need is an Internet connection).
- Real-time co-authoring capabilities means that multiple employees can work on the same document at the same time.
- SharePoint will always show the latest version of a document, with the option to revert to an earlier version if needed.
- Team members and leaders can set up individual or group tasks, assign tasks to other team members, monitor which tasks have been completed, and reveal any dependent relationships between tasks.
- You have access to a shared calendar, shared notebook (through OneNote), shared chat (through Yammer), and other collaboration tools.
The best thing about SharePoint as a virtual workspace is that you don’t need an IT team to be able to do any of these things – collaboration can be set up from the team leader.
3. SharePoint Can Help Automate Mundane Tasks
SharePoint Workflows save you time and effort, while also bringing consistency and efficiency to tasks that your organization performs on a regular basis. You can think of SharePoint Workflows as a chain of events that happens after you do something with a document or file in your SharePoint environment. SharePoint can help you automate mundane tasks, like having to collect signatures or approvals, tracking statuses on documents, providing you with notifications if/when something changes, and more.
ProServeIT’s customers typically use the following five commonly used Workflows within their SharePoint environments: Approval Workflows, Status Workflows, Notification Workflows, Automation Workflows, and Custom Workflows. For more information on these workflows, our recent blog can provide some examples of how you can use them in your organization.
"But I heard from a colleague who used SharePoint in their last job that SharePoint is hard to use!"
When we bring up SharePoint as a potential solution, a lot of our customers seem to hold a bias against SharePoint – either they’ve dealt with it personally, or they know someone who has, and their experiences haven’t been the smoothest.
Considering that Microsoft is constantly updating their Office 365 suite of products, which includes SharePoint, it’s fair to say that this bias won’t reflect the current SharePoint solution you’ll be using. In fact, in our experience, when we work with an organization who takes the time to properly plan out their SharePoint implementation, gets employee input and buy-in for the project, properly deploys their SharePoint solution, and spends the time and effort to introduce it to their employees the right way, there's absolutely no reason why SharePoint can't be the helpful collaboration tool we’ve described here.
Still hesitant? Our Quick Migration to SharePoint offer is the perfect place to start. We’ll help you with an on-site meeting that goes over your existing environment, recommendations on structuring your site, tips for how you can leverage your SharePoint environment, and optional recommendations for future planning. By engaging in this workshop, we can work with you to help your SharePoint deployment be more successful.
What Do You Need to Know About SharePoint Licensing?
There are a few different options for SharePoint licensing, including two on-premise solutions or an online solution. Below, we’ve outlined these three options and explained them in greater detail:
- SharePoint Online:
This is the Cloud-based version of SharePoint. It can be offered as a standalone product or bundled through various Office 365 licenses. There are a number of different packaged options through SharePoint Online, allowing you to choose which of the SharePoint server features you want to have access to.
A Quick Note about SharePoint Online: This is the Cloud-based version of SharePoint. It does not require you to install anything on your current server, and you can access it from anywhere, at anytime.
- SharePoint Server 2016, Standard License:
With the SharePoint Server 2016 Standard license, you will have access to the core capabilities of SharePoint, including Content management capabilities, Search functions, integrated Communities, and Sites, which helps you manage your business websites built on the SharePoint platform.
- SharePoint Server 2016, Enterprise License:
With the SharePoint Server 2016 Enterprise license, you will have access to the full capabilities of SharePoint. Aside from the standard features, you’ll also have access to business solutions (like Access Services and InfoPath Services), application integration, and business intelligence tools like Power View, PeformancePoint Services, Excel Services and Visio services.
This enterprise license will give you access to all the above, plus advanced scenarios for business intelligence, application integration, and Office 2016 services.
A quick note about SharePoint Server 2016: This is the latest on-premise version of SharePoint. If you wanted to implement this in your organization, you will need to have your IT team, a Microsoft partner, or a licensed SharePoint distributor install this on your current server for you. Although on-premises, SharePoint Server 2016 can be accessed through mobile devices by downloading SharePoint Mobile Apps from your app store.